The mobile app industry is an extremely fast-paced environment. New technologies appear every year, and trends regularly change. Thus, people enjoy having broad functionality on their phones so they can do everything anytime and anywhere.
Increasing users’ requirements for the apps have settled a fierce competitive edge for mobile app developers. Thus, the choice of a programming language became vital as it influences timings, development cost, and functionality. In the app development realm, Flutter and React Native are not unheard of, and the competition between them goes on.
Let’s bring this subject up, overview both and figure out what to look for when choosing a programming language.
What is Flutter: a brief overview
Back in 2017, Google came up with Flutter – an open-source framework built on top of Dart. It has quickly captured the desired attention, as everybody expects Google products to be easy-to-use and regularly updated. Flutter became no exception.
Today, many world top companies heavily rely on Flutter and its functionality. For instance, it was used to build the SpaceX app, Google Pay, Etsy, and Stadia. Moreover, BMW and Toyota chose Flutter to build apps for car owners.
The process of creating a cross-platform app using Flutter
App development is a complex process that depends on numerous variables. Unifying the process and using it as an ultimate app-building recipe would be impossible. Instead, let’s boil the process down to essential steps you have to make on your way.
First off, download Flutter SDK (software development kit) from the official website and install it on your machine. Also, you have to install IDE (integrated development environment), which normally has a code editor, debugging, and automation tools.
Create a new project
Once essentials are installed, you are good to start. Create a new project using the newly installed IDE or command line tool. Normally, Flutter will add basic files and folders structure needed to start working.
Code your app
This is the vastest step because you must build your project entirely from scratch. Luckily, Flutter is built on Dart, which in turn, is a straightforward and quite newbie-friendly language.
Debugging and testing
To ensure your app works as intended, it must be thoroughly tested. Thus, you can run it on an emulator or your own device and spot potential bugs or errors. Also, never omit using third-party services to test your application. Ensuring it works on all possible devices and operating systems (OS) is vital.
Publish the app
As soon as you are ready to release your app, head to Google Play Market and Apple’s App Store to dive deep into the requirements your app has to conform to. You can submit your app to Google Play Market for free. The only expense is a $25 developer account you will need to have. On the contrary, an Apple developer account will cost you $99 annually.
Ensure you keep your app current and release updates if needed. Users tend to stick to apps that are regularly refreshed with new content. Thus, it will benefit your income and the number of downloads.
What is React Native: a brief overview
Thanks to being available on the market longer, React Native is a more time-tested language. This can be easily proven by the example of apps built with it. For instance, giants such as Walmart, Bloomberg, Wix, Facebook, and SoundCloud are built with React Native. Here’s how you work with it.
Essentials in creating a cross-platform app using React Native
It would be logical to describe the process of creating an app with React Native same as we did with Flutter. Although the steps remain the same, the development process differs a lot since these are frameworks based on two different languages.
Instead of repeating the exact steps, let’s break down core things in React Native app development lifecycle. And look at everything you should know about them.
- UI elements & components. React Native features an extensive library of built-in elements ready for your app. They are based on native components that both iOS and Android platforms provide. In addition, they are optimized for cross-platform usage.
- Application programming interfaces (APIs). React Native provides APIs to access native features of both iOS and Android platforms. Say, if your app needs to access the user’s camera, contacts, microphone, or location, these APIs got you covered.
- Debugging routine. Testing-wise, React Native provides a solid base for a variety of operations. For instance, it features a standalone desktop application that grants developers the possibility to test and debug apps in real time.
Differences and comparison of Flutter vs React Native
After figuring out the workflow, you may get the impression that they are quite alike. Spoiler alert: they are not. The workflow may seem similar, yet they have many major differences. Let’s compare Flutter and React Native in more criteria, shall we?
Despite a quite straightforward workflow, the complexity of the regular Flutter app is impressive. A brief understanding of what’s under the hood would be beneficial. Here’s a short breakdown of how the Flutter app works, what parts it combines, and how Google puts it together.
- Dart app. In the whole process, this part represents our usual understanding of what the app is. It transforms the widgets into the UI you built. Also, the Dart app covers all business logic the developer coded.
- Flutter Framework. Essentially, it delivers high-level API used to build prime apps. For instance, it’s responsible for compiling widgets, accessibility features, etc. Later on, it combines the widget tree into a scene. In this matter, a scene is a container that controls the app’s windows and presents the instance of the UI you built.
- Engine. This one covers rasterizing scenes composited in a step below. It provides a low-level implementation of Flutter’s core APIs which covers the app’s graphics, UI elements layout, etc. The engine provides its functionality to the framework using the dart:ui API.
- Embedder. As the name states, the embedder coordinates the app and the target operating system (iOS or Android). Embedder also takes care of the event loop in your app.
- Runner. This package takes care of composing all the pieces into an app package. Finally, the package of your app is being built and is ready for testing and implementation on target platforms.
Same as with Flutter, it is challenging to work with the framework without knowing its core concepts, one of which is architecture. Understanding what your app consists of not only has an educational function. It also helps to figure out small nuances which may be useful in the development process. Let’s zoom in on React Native’s architecture.
Starting from version 0.60, React Native became powered by the engine called Hermes for Android. Later on, with version 0.64, it started to support the iOS platform as well. Speaking of the present, with version 0.68, the Facebook team presented a brand-new architecture model.
With the new architecture, developers received a number of fundamental improvements, or as how the React Native development team puts them – “pillars of the new architecture.” Let’s count them, shall we?
- Turbo modules. This new native module system allows developers to efficiently support and maintain the integration process with the native code.
- Fabric. Brand-new native renderer to improve the multi-platform consistency and level up the rendering performance.
- Codegen. A tool that can help to avoid writing excessive and repetitive code. It also gets automatically invoked whenever an Android or iOS app is built.
- Concurrency. Now, it has become more accessible from JS to invoke methods that are executed on different threads within a single app;
- Synchronous events. It became possible to execute functions that didn’t have this functionality beforehand synchronously;
- Type safety. To make sure that JS can properly invoke methods on C++ objects and vice-versa, there is an automatically a layer of code automatically generated has been added. The code is generated starting from some JS specification that must be typed through Flow or TypeScript.
In a comparison of development, there are two aspects we will cover: programming language specifics and packet managers. They are quite determinative and may highly influence your framework choice.
Speaking of programming languages, Dart is a relatively new one, quite similar to Java or C#. It has a strong type system and a garbage collection. Thus, it is easier to write maintainable and robust code. Despite its easiness, it also has several crucial drawbacks, one of which is that it is still in development. This means the language still evolves and may significantly change over the next few years. Finding a reliable development team or even freelance specialists would be challenging, considering its newness.
Nevertheless, JS is still a bit more challenging than Flutter. It has been around for a while, and throughout the years, it has significantly developed. Because of this, writing scalable and clean code requires more effort and knowledge.
They are sets of software development tools that can be implemented in the project. There’s a variety of them, and the number grows daily. Normally, they are created to simplify routine processes like installation, updating, or managing the app. Besides, they can also be used to implement some additional functionality that would be hard to build from scratch.
Dart and Flutter, accordingly, have their main package manager called 'pub'. It includes more than 24,000 libraries as of 2022. The community actively expands the number, though. Nonetheless, 24,000 is very low for one of the leading cross-platform programming languages. Actually, because of this, Flutter really does not cope very well with tasks that require a unique approach, say when there’s a job for a scalpel and not a hammer.
Speaking of the UI, Flutter has its own kit of pre-built components called widgets. Flutter provides two in-built libraries to work with visuals – ‘Material’ and ‘Cupertino.’ To work with UI, it also offers a dozen of libraries, including Animation, Foundation, Physics, Widgets, Painting, etc.
Using them feels like working with a native app which is a solid advantage. Also, they are customizable, so you can adapt them to create your own UI elements. Needless to say, the framework also supports custom transitions and animations.
React Native, in turn, works with native components. Initially, when you set up your projects, you get 24 of them and 31 APIs out of the box. They, however, are quite basic, and making a full-scale app will require adding more. For instance, React Native doesn’t include functionality to work with the web and fetch requests between your app and the server.
On the contrary, the community provides an infinite amount of various components, many of which are absolutely free! Here’s a prominent example of a set of them that is free to download and open to suggestions.
With React Native, creating your own UI elements can be challenging, as using third-party libraries for custom and scalable UI elements is a popular practice. However, the libraries React Native provides allow developers to build more native-looking and natural apps.
These rates are important as they directly influence the development process and the application's overall speed. Both Flutter and React Native have their strengths and weaknesses in this matter.
For instance, Flutter is popular because of its swift performance. It uses native ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) code. This, in turn, fastens animation and improves the rendering process. Flutter benefits from the combination of just-in-time (JIT) and ahead-of-time (AOT) compilations, which compile code to native machine code. This allows Flutter to decrease the app’s startup time and boost its performance.
Another feature worth mentioning is the hot reload, which Flutter takes advantage of. Its presence allows developers to make changes in the source code. Then, the Dart Virtual Machine (VM) can be easily updated with the new version you submitted without the need to stop the processes and reload the whole code. This feature makes the development process extremely time-efficient.
React Native uses just-in-time (JIT) compilation. It is significantly slower compared to Flutter’s. However, considering that it renders native-looking elements and has an extensive community and ecosystem, it doesn’t look like a disadvantage. Moreover, thanks to community support, there are dozens of third-party integrations to boost performance and loading processes.
Just like hot reload, React Native has fast refresh, which has been released with version 0.61. Same as with hot reload, this one simplifies the work with the source code and allows developers to see the results right away.
It is a vital aspect of every programming language. It usually contains broad explanations of every single element of the language with its respective modifications people may use. Thus, making it extensive, thoughtful, and regularly updated is important.
It is noted that React Native offers very general documentation. This framework, in fact, relies on various external software development kits (SDK). They are built by the community, and Meta cannot include them in the official documentation. Hence, it’s the reason why React Native documentation covers only the basics and the set of features created by Meta. Yet React Native leaves the exploration of community-made additions to you.
On the contrary, like every other Google product, Flutter’s documentation is highly organized and quite complex. It is also noted that overall it’s more streamlined and user-friendly. Given that there are way fewer community-made solutions, Flutter’s documentation can be really helpful for either beginners or advanced developers.
Popularity and community support
The popularity of both frameworks is outstanding, as they are the most dominant in the market. According to Statista, almost 50% of respondents answered that either React Native or Flutter are among their choice.
Despite the popularity statistics, we believe that React Native will remain an absolute winner in this competition for years, and here are two major reasons why.
- React Native is more mature. As simple as that, the longer the framework is available, the bigger its user base will grow. During the time React is available in the market, it has grown a lot and, apart from the mobile realm, has already expanded to macOS and Windows.
Regarding Flutter, its community is comparatively smaller but consistently grows. Google greatly invests in growing the ecosystem. For instance, they regularly organize Meetups to connect with other Flutter developers. Besides, they host events and support their community in Discord, Reddit, Slack, and other platforms.
Flutter vs React Native trends
In the app development realm, trends are ways to improve the development process using various techniques. Thus, they may look similar for both Flutter and React Native, yet the difference persists. Nevertheless, let’s take a look.
- Flutter developers aim to expand Flutter’s web development capabilities to cover a broader number of users and platforms;
- Additional emphasis on accessibility features to provide the best user experience for users with special needs;
- Implementing Flutter for desktop and embedded development.
It is quite clear that Flutter trends aim at reaching new grounds and expanding their influence on the industry. On the contrary, React Native trends target overall improvements to make the framework more scalable, fast-performant, and reusable.
- Increasing interest in hybrid app development;
- Increased adoption of React Native in large-scale applications;
- Integration with popular backend frameworks such as Firebase and GraphQL;
- Enhanced performance and stability improvements;
- Emphasis on improving the development experience with tooling improvements.
Summarized table of differences between Flutter and React Native
As you can see, the comparison between Flutter vs React Native is rather vast. There are many key points that influence the choice. So, let’s boil the conclusions down to the table where we’ll count the most definite points and simplify your choice of React Native or Flutter.
|Flutter vs React Native: сomparison table|
|Architecture||Operates on 2D graphic rendering called Skia; has a thoughtful architecture but is still under development and regular updates.||Relies on Flux, which is responsible for the data flow, has recently released a brand-new architecture that eliminated major disadvantages.|
|UI aspect||Uses pre-built widgets that can be adapted to create custom UI elements; has a small number of available libraries, and many solutions must be made from scratch.||Thanks to native elements, React Native design decisions look more natural yet are more complex in development; the community has cultivated thousands of libraries with ready-made or simplified solutions.|
|Documentation||More structured and thorough; regularly updated.||More complex and intricate because of a high number of third-party SDKs.|
|Speed & performance||Faster because a combination of JIT and AOT boosts apps’ startup time and performance but requires more memory.||Uses JIT compilation, so the core functionality is slower. It is boosted and optimized using third-party integrations.|
Pros and cons of using Flutter
After comparing essential aspects of the competition of React Native vs Flutter, let's zoom in on the pros and cons of the latter. This way, it would be simpler to reveal its weaknesses and strengths and finally figure out whether it’s suitable for the development you are planning.
- Single codebase and UI across multiple platforms;
- Native 2D graphics library;
- Efficient testing across all platforms;
- Hot Reload that helps to fix bugs, fasten the development, and experiment with the UI.
- Slight development community, which results in a lack of specialists and less available functionality;
- Lack of continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD);
- A poor number of libraries and third-party integrations available;
- Flutter apps tend to be huge in size, because of the common usage of additional libraries, and/or assets.
Pros and cons of using React Native
After understanding Flutter’s pros and cons, let’s zoom in on two sides of its direct competitor. We will summarize the most significant points and cover why, despite the advantages of Flutter over React Native, the latter remains our ultimate choice in Codica.
- Fast refresh feature that allows to instantly monitor changes made to the source code and other components;
- Unique codebase across all platforms, which simplifies the development and saves time;
- Extensive community that made numerous guidelines, instructions, and plugins to simplify the development environment, not to mention the support its members can provide;
- React Native provides quite fast development thanks to pre-built components and highly reusable code.
- React Native may feel limited in terms of functionality compared to native development. This, in turn, can set limitations for complex development and, thus, require third-party integrations;
- Apps built with React Native need multiple dependencies, which complicate the development process;
- It’s not unheard of that memory management in React Native can be cumbersome, which can result in crashes, slow performance and affect user experience.
React Native vs Flutter: which is easier to use?
Both Flutter and React Native are the top frameworks for developing cross-platform applications. Regarding learning, paying attention to both languages' learning curves is important.
Flutter may seem to be easy to learn due to a number of reasons. For instance, people who are acknowledged of the basics of object-oriented programming (OOP) concepts may find Flutter quite straightforward to learn as it heavily relies on OOP. Dart itself is known for very clean syntax and a rich collection of customizable widgets to build UI.
Besides, there are numerous learning resources you can stick to. Some are free, whereas some come with a subscription or a one-time payment. For instance, Coursera offers a wide variety of courses from leading IT companies and top universities.
Flutter or React Native: which one to choose?
The choice between React Native vs Flutter frameworks highly relies on the specifics and priorities of your project. Generally, both frameworks are capable of producing high-quality cross-platform apps. It is always worth experimenting with both. This way, you can see the advantages and disadvantages of each in action.
In Codica, we strictly adhere to React Native, and here’s why. Throughout the years, we have been building complex projects, including marketplaces, PWAs, mobile apps, and SaaS solutions. Thus, the word ‘complex’ greatly describes why React Native is our choice in mobile application development services. The framework provides an extensive amount of libraries that can be helpful in literally any possible task. React Native is all about scalability and reliability, and that’s why we chose it over Flutter.
In app development, we strictly adhere to the number of must-have features. Here’s what our front-end tech lead says about the service we provide and which he delegates.
In addition to Eugene’s comment, when working on our projects, we aim to provide advanced customization, superior user experience, fast delivery and launch time, and high-security measures. Ultimately, it would be impossible without implementing advanced and complex libraries React Native provides.
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Flutter and React Native: apps examples
If you still cannot choose between Flutter or React Native, looking at the apps that are built with their help can be beneficial. If you already have an app idea, seeing if something similar was built with either of the languages can hint at the direction to move. Let’s start with Flutter.
According to the official showcase tab, despite its newness, Flutter is quite popular among developers all over the globe. Besides, even some top companies trusted the technology and built their products with it. For example, eBay Motors has been built with Flutter and, as a result, boasts some outstanding metrics.
Other good examples are the BMW app, Google Pay, Tencent, Toyota, Crédit Agricole, and others. Nonetheless, as a direct competitor to React Native, Flutter doesn’t seem to have an extensive number of cases in its portfolio.
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In fact, React Native also has a showcase page listing apps built with the technology. It lists numerous examples of how companies and corporations implement React Native in their products. First off, there are examples of how Microsoft built its mobile apps with React Native.
In fact, there are even more. For instance, both Shopify and Wix used React Native to build 4 of their mobile apps. Among others listed, we use many world-known services daily, such as Flipkart, Pinterest, and Discord.
So, what’s the conclusion? Obviously, React Native beats Flutter not only in terms of popularity but in reliability as well. Way more known brands and companies prefer using time-tested software to build their apps. Codica here is not an exception.
Not a long time ago, we successfully delivered a multi-vendor marketplace platform with the help of React. As a result, we built one of the largest e-commerce solutions in the UK market.
With the help of React, we made an extremely complex solution combining B2C and C2C business models. It features an administration panel, an advanced search system, and a user-friendly sign-up form.
As one of our developers noted, building such a complex project would be impossible without React. Not that there are no alternatives, but building it with Flutter would have required creating numerous elements from scratch.
Future of Flutter and React Native
Speaking shortly, the future of both frameworks appears to be quite promising. Despite the fact that each of both grows in a different way, there are reasons to believe that none will eliminate the other. Instead, they will live side to side, each serving its purpose.
As we already mentioned, Flutter is a newer framework quickly growing in popularity. Briefly summarizing pros and cons, Flutter has an excellent performance, a highly customizable UI design, and a hot reload feature to boost the development cycles. Despite its advantages, Flutter strongly lacks a community base and a number of libraries available. Accordingly, it is not a favorable choice for building highly complex apps to beat app stores’ charts.
Nonetheless, Google invests a lot in developing and popularizing the framework, hosts meetups, and regularly releases updates. From our point of view, the future of Flutter is in adhering to the popularization curve, making it accessible and user-friendly for both beginners and advanced programmers. As we can see from the chart, the growth we are predicting is quite successful.
Apart from the steady growth we see, React Native has undergone sizeable updates and improvements. Recently, the Meta team announced major updates where they adopted Fabric – a brand-new architecture for the framework. What’s more, it expanded to other platforms and now covers not only iOS and Android operating systems but also Windows, macOS, and the web. Major improvements React Native received only benefit its popularity, which grows significantly.
In this piece, we covered many aspects and peculiarities of mobile development on both frameworks. In the eternal competition of which is better, Flutter or React Native, we would answer that both are good. Notably, the ultimate conclusion would be that both frameworks are quite good yet extremely different depending on the purpose.
For instance, Flutter and React Native are efficient, regularly updated, and quite popular. Yet they possess some disadvantages you may face during development. Nonetheless, we chose to work with React Native, and for now, our clients are satisfied with the results we provide.
Thanks to the expertise our developers in Codica have, we always adhere to best and trending practices during development. Thus, if you have a mobile app idea – we would be glad to help. Feel free to contact us!
We sincerely hope our expertise and a detailed breakdown of the React Native vs Flutter competition will become a reliable guide to your choice.